Both young and experienced Raiders having a good time

Apr. 16—There's quite a bit of inexperience within the Liberty tennis program this year. One way to combat that is to take the edge off.

"We are real encouraging with them. We have a good time," said Raiders head coach Joan Cooper. "They think we're crazy half the time. We're out there yelling and hooting and hitting with them. It's mostly a family, and both me and my assistant Kathy (Elam) just love the kids. We have a good time with them whether we win or not."

The inexperience largely lies on the boys side, where first seed Tucker Howerton is the lone returning player.

"Most of (the boys) were on the team last year but didn't seed, so this is their first year seeding," Cooper said. "(Howerton) only played last year and seeded last year. He's done really well at first seed, but he's pretty green himself."

The second seed is Brandon Smith, followed by Nick Niday at No. 3 and Abram Yee at No. 4. Smith and Niday are juniors and Yee is a senior.

Niday and Yee are first-year players.

The team is made up of seven boys overall, so Cooper adjusted the doubles pairings to ensure everyone gets on the court.

Howerton and Yee team up at No. 1, while the No. 2 duo is Niday and Bryce Lyons. The third seed is made up of Jaxon Dillon and Jacob Tolliver.

There is more experience on the girls side, and it starts at the top.

Junior Emma Massey is the No. 1 seed and has amassed one of the top Universal Tennis Ratings in the area. The UTR is used to determine postseason seeding in a system that was changed by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission last season. Massey owns a victory over Charleston Caholic's Emilie McNeil.

She suffered her first defeat on Monday, to Bluefield's Isabella Disibbio. The two split a pair of matches.

"She is the toughest tennis player I have seen on this team, probably ever," said Cooper, now in her sixth season.

"She's just grown and grown and grown, and works really hard in season and offseason. She competes with the best of them. They (Massey and Disibbio) always split. One of them will win one, and then the other, because they're very evenly matched. We had to play two matches (Monday) because it got too dark to finish (March 21). She won one and lost the other one and they're always neck-and-neck. It's a good game to watch."

Senior Daisy Hatcher is the No. 2 seed and is a four-year player for Cooper. No. 3 seed Maggie Asbury, a junior, is back after taking last season off. The fourth seed is sophomore Kendal Cox.

"She has played softball her whole life and dropped it because she thought tennis was so fun. She's doing really well," Cooper said. "Most of the time the sophomores or the freshmen will play in gym class and find out it's fun. They come and they just have a good time."

Massey and Hatcher are in their third season as a doubles team and take the top spot there. At No. 2 are Asbury and Abby Brown, who was unseeded last year but Cooper says she has improved a lot. Third seed are Cox and Samantha Hackbarth, who worked her way up like Brown.

The Raiders' match at Sherman on Tuesday was rained out. They are scheduled to travel to Region 3 power Herbert Hoover on Wednesday, host Westside on Thursday and play at Wyoming East on Friday before hosting the Coalfield Conference Tournament next week.